Compulsive Behaviors In Dogs
See files for Dogs
Behavioral problems in dogs should not be something that is ignored. In fact, behavioral problems in dogs should be taken very seriously, as it in one of the main reasons behind dog abandonment. It is important that if you notice behavioral problems in your dog: you deal with them as soon as possible. They can negatively affect a dog's well-being and result in a very aggressive dog.
If you think your dog may be developing some compulsive behavioral problem, do not ignore it. Take a look at our AnimalWised article to find out more about 5 common compulsive behaviors in dogs. Keep reading to learn to: differentiate these behaviors, find out why they happen and follow some guidelines on how you can help your pet.
Obsessive compulsive disorder in dogs
Obsessive compulsive disorder in dogs, otherwise known as stereotipies (misnamed TOC in dogs), is characterized by a repetitive and invariable sequence of activities or movements. These actions have no obvious purpose or function. These behaviors commonly derive from normal behaviors, such as: grooming, feeding or playing. Repetitive behavior however, interferes with the normal functioning of an animal. Compulsive behaviors are abnormal actions which fall out of context and are often repetitive, exaggerated or maintained over time.
Obsessive disorder in dogs is completely different from OCD in humans.
5 compulsive behaviors in dogs
We can classify the compulsive behaviors of dogs into 5 groups, namely: locomotive, oral, aggressive, vocalization and hallucinatory.
- Locomotive compulsive behaviors: spinning in circles, chasing their tails, walking from side to side, jumping in the same place reppetitively or remaining "frozen."
- Oral compulsive behaviors: nibbling on their limbs, self-licking, nibbling air, compulsively licking of their nose, chewing or licking objects, obsessive eating, drinking large amounts of water continuously and itching (eating non-food items).
- Compulsive behaviors related to aggression: self-directed aggression (such as: grunting or biting parts of the body), attacking plates of your food or other objects. Also included in this group is aggression redirected towards people, often unpredictable.
- Compulsive vocalization behaviors: vocalization can appear as rhythmic bark or compulsive whining.
- Hallucinatory compulsive behaviors: looking at shadows, pursuing light reflections of light and/or waking up suddenly for no apparent reason.
Stereotypies in dogs
There are several reasons why a dog may end up suffering from a compulsive disorder. By knowing why and/or understanding the causes for such behaviors, it allows you the possibility of trying to solve this problem:
- Stress and anxiety: Compulsive behaviors are conflicting behaviors caused by situations that occur around an animal. For example: a conflict can occur when there are two equally strong motivations, such as screaming at a dog and reprimanding it immediately. This happens a lot in dog parks, where we see people calling their dogs and, if they do not attend the call right away, the human will scold it when it does finally arrive. This action causes frustration and stress in a dog. Any environmental factors that result in frustration or stress (for example: social conflict with another dog, separation anxiety or illness) may contribute to obsessive-compulsive disorder in a dog.
- Genetic predisposition: genetic predisposition is probably present in all case of stereotyping. Dogs can also be genetically susceptible to the development of compulsive behaviors. Large dog breeds seem to be more prone to developing stereotypies than smaller dogs.
- Organic causes: when a dog has a small scratch or a surgical wound, it is normal that it will sometimes lick it. However, persistent licking can cause other injuries that have nothing to do with the original. Stress associated with physical injury or irritation, such as allergies, can contribute to the development of stereotypies. In fact, any illness that increases stress or irritability, such as a dermatological disease or a hormonal imbalance, can lead to compulsive behaviors.
- Conditioning: Most people pay too much attention to their pets when they engage in compulsive behavior. Most cases of stereotyping are usually aggravated by this attention. This is because if you give a dog too much attention when they are already performing a compulsive action: they will begin to perform this behavior for your attention. Remember that dogs, like humans, are creatures of habit.
Compulsive behaviors in the dog associated with breed
Certain breeds tend to present very specific stereotypes. Here is a list of the breeds and their most recurrent compulsive behaviors:
- English Bull Terrier: running from one side to another, chasing its tail and "freezing."
- German Shepherd: running from one side to another and chasing its tail.
- Dalmatian and Rottweiler: hallucinations.
- Doberman pinscher: licking its flanks.
- Border Collie: chasing shadows.
- Australian cattle herder: chasing its tail.
- Miniature Schnauzer: looking back.
- Large breed dogs: licking from the extremities.
How to treat OCD in dogs?
We always recommend that if you notice any new or strange symptom in your pet: you should go to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Management of the situation
If possible, identify the source of the: stress, conflict or frustration. Establish daily routines where you focus on keeping your pet physically and mentally stimulated. Avoid scolding or any other type of punishment, as it will increase your dog's level of discomfort.
Modification of dog behavior
Behavioral problems should always be supervised by a behavior modification specialist, such as an ethologist, canine educator or trainer.
However, here are some basic tips to help you try lower your dog's stress and anxiety levels, until a professional visit can be organized:
- Teaching your dog basic obedience with the use of positive reinforcement (food, caresses or kind words) will help develop basic skills and decrease boredom in your dog. Clicker training is a great method to consider trying. The objective for these habits to replace the negative ones.
- Avoid or eliminate triggers. For example, if a dog tends to eat or chew certain objects, remove them from the home.
- Identify the stimuli (sounds, activities, visual triggers) that cause the dog to react negatively and try remove them. For example, if a dog is reacting to something that is happening outside, close the windows and curtains.
- Eliminates attention as a reward for compulsive behavior. Only interact with the dog when it behaves properly. In the beginning stages of the development of a stereotypy, attention can become a reinforcing factor.
- Involve the dog in alternative games or positive behaviors to replace the problematic behaviors.
When compulsive behaviors in dogs reaches intolerable levels, which are difficult to manage: a veterinarian can prescribe medication to improve the dog's behavior. We only recommend this option in extreme cases, when the welfare of the animal is in danger.
If you want to read similar articles to Compulsive Behaviors In Dogs, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.